The Drama Triangle, by Betsy Dickinson


The Drama Triangle is a social model developed by Stephen Karman, MD. It defines the roles of persecutor, victim and rescuer in drama-intense relationship transactions.

It models the connection between personal responsibility and power in conflicts and the destructive and shifting roles people play.

The Persecutor and Rescuer is the “one-up” position.

The Victim is the “one-down” position.

Victim’s seek out persecutors and rescuers.

Rescuers feel guilty if they don’t come to the rescue in some way. Rescuing is a way of relieving their own anxiety regarding their own issues. These are the typical martyr’s who feel unappreciated when not recognized for their efforts, thus becoming a “victim” and needing rescuing themselves.

Roles can be static, but usually move around the triangle. Sometimes quickly and sometime over a longer period of time.

Each drama has a payoff for those playing it by relieving the anxiety or guilt over insecurity that drives it. The antithesis of a drama triangle lies in discovering how to deprive the actors of their payoff.

When developing a character in a novel, the protagonist usually has a character flaw the sets up the conflict in the story. The flaw may or may not be explained, but their interactions with other characters illustrates the flaw.

An example:

Mary Persecutor: “You’re never home. You never do anything around here.” (She’s feeling rejected or abandoned but wants her husband to feel guilty enough to fix the situation. She doesn’t have the language to say: “l miss you. Can we talk about ways to spend more time together?’. …That would be a boring story!)


Mary Victim: I wish you were home more. I’m so lonely. No one ever calls me, the kids are driving me crazy and I cant figure out how to get the bills paid on time. I don’t know what to do. (Once hubby fixes this problem, it wont be enough and there will just be another one.)


Mary Rescuer: You’ve been working so hard lately. I’ll take over everything here at home. What would you like for dinner? (Resentment’s going to build, guaranteed.)

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *